Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Being 'nice guy' doesn't excuse bad behavior

Apologists for legislators like Steve Foti, who say he was a nice guy and shouldn't be penalized for abusing his office -- folks like Ragnar Mentaire, for example, would do well to read this piece by Scott Milfred of the Wisconsin State Journal, who nails it.

For the team, Foti said fine when higher ups asked him to put the Assembly Republican fundraiser on his payroll. He didn't supervise her, he didn't direct her, he merely stood aside and let things happen in other corners of the capitol. Foti was never involved in caucus campaign stuff. It simply was not his interest, and he never particularly cared for the institution. After becoming Majority Leader, he simply stepped up and allowed for one of his positions to be used by others. WHAT ABOUT SHIRLEY KRUG OR BRIAN FRALEY OR MARY PANZER OR RICH JUDGE? For gods' sake, they actually ran campaign machines out of the capitol AND THEY'VE NEVER BEEN CHARGED WITH ANYTHING!!!!

Steve Foti is one of the best guys to have ever served in the Legislature. His early unseriousness was replaced by intelligence, results and an exceptional demeanor with members of both parties. It is worse than unfortunate that this scandal forced him out of office, as he would have been a great Speaker. A giant next to the midgets that are currently hoping to succeed Gard. SHAME ON YOU, BRIAN BLANCHARD, FOR SCREWING THIS UP!! You busted one of the good guys, and let dozens of more egregious violators slide. IT IS BEYOND SICKENING!
To avoid trial on a felony charge, Foti pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ethics violation Friday. He admits he hired a campaign fundraiser, Sherry Schultz, on the state's payroll for more than three years at an annual salary that grew to $65,052. The total tab is estimated at $300,000.

For the expense, Wisconsin taxpayers got a full-time "money person" who hit up private political donors and recruited leader- picked Assembly candidates, according to Foti's criminal complaint.

A longtime state employee in Foti's office complained repeatedly about Schultz after she was hired in 1998. Schultz shouldn't be working at the Capitol, the staffer told Foti, unless she's doing legitimate public work.

Foti eventually agreed to move Schultz to an office at the Assembly Republican Caucus office a block from the Capitol. But it was still a state office, and taxpayers were still paying Schultz's salary.

"Schultz would brag about how much money she raised," the complaint states. "Foti and the rest of his staff knew what Schultz was doing with her time."

Multiple state employees said Schultz never did any legitimate work for taxpayers.

Foti already had four employees. Schultz became his fifth. So much for the Republican mantra of small government.

Schultz would track campaign money, file necessary reports and create "call sheets" of donors, the complaint states. Schultz was "constantly talking with lobbyists regarding campaign contributions." Lobbyists would drop checks off at Foti's Capitol office.

Schultz worked "typical banker's hours" but often disappeared during afternoons, the complaint states. When it wasn't campaign season, Schultz would go on vacation a lot.

Schultz also raised campaign money for Foti himself.
Heard enough? This wasn't a petty ante case. This was grand theft from the taxpayers. And Foti had direct, personal responsibility.

Taking one for the team? Not much of a defense. It's easy to see why Foti's lawyer didn't want to use the Mentaire defense in court.


At 4:35 PM, Blogger Ragnar Mentaire said...

I just read in the jensen filing that you advised Burke to follow the same path
people in glass houses should be more careful about throwing stones.


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